Special Educational Needs in the Mainstream Classroom-EEF recommendations (2020)

Essential reading for educators-‘This report presents five recommendations for mainstream primary and secondary schools seeking to improve their provision for pupils with SEND. Some of the recommendations included here will also be helpful for pupils in special schools.’
Recommendation 1 Create a positive and supportive environment for all pupils,
without exception. Recommendation 2 Build an ongoing, holistic understanding of your pupils and
their needs. Recommendation 3 Ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching.
Recommendation 4 Complement high quality teaching with carefully selected
small-group and one-to-one interventions. Recommendation 5 Work effectively with teaching assistants.

Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools | EEF (educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk)

Download the poster summary here-Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools—Recommendations (d2tic4wvo1iusb.cloudfront.net)

Becoming Word Aware at Osmani Primary School

Linda Hall and Tracey Grant from the Language, Literacy and Communication Team led training on Word Aware, a structured whole school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all children. Focused on whole class learning, the resource is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language, but it will extend the word learning of all students.

Practical, inspiring and fun ideas were explored that can be easily applied by busy classroom practitioners to develop both spoken and written vocabulary.

Remi Atoyebi (Headteacher), Helen Vail and Tracey Grant (Language, Literacy and Communication Team Learning Advisory Service Advisory teacher for inclusion).

Contact linda.hall@towerhamlets.gov.uk for further information if you are interested in booking this training for your school.

Educating your child at home

Climate change and Environmental Science

Enjoy a light-hearted illustrated children’s book about climate change and caring for our animals that is perfect for inspiring the next Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough.

Listen to the author read it aloud- https://youtu.be/ZEn-6ZiAUNM

Climate Change resources

Climate change resources for schools | WWF

Climate Change for Kids – Science Experiments for Kids (science-sparks.com)

17 Weather Science Projects and Lessons | Science Buddies Blog

Classroom Strategies to Support Pupils with Literacy KS2

Great learning at Arnhem Wharf Primary School led by LLC advisors Alison Haines and Tracey Grant. Staff delved into current theory and innovative practice leading to classroom success!

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Almost all schools now offer a literacy curriculum based on systematic synthetic phonics which most children respond really well to. But, there is a small group of pupils that don’t make the progress that we expect.

The building blocks to good phonic skills include really strong phonological awareness skills (the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language e.g. syllables, rhyme etc.) and phoneme awareness  (manipulating individual sounds).  Research shows that the majority of pupils that go on to struggle with spelling, reading and writing have a relative difficulty with their phoneme awareness and other phonological skills.  This group need extra time and attention.

Early Years settings are brilliant at developing phonological awareness skills, but as children move up into Key Stage 1 and beyond, it becomes harder for class teachers to find time to spend time on this.

One useful resource, available to all schools with access to the London Grid for Learning is Busy Things.  We found their phonic games very helpful when supporting children during lockdown, as they develop phonological awareness as well as phonics.

They updated a lot of the materials in May 2021.  We like the way you can customize the games to concentrate on specific grapheme phoneme correspondences.


Our pupils loved the games. There are games to support rhyming skills such as Topple the Tower and Robert Robot:

As well as games like Feed the Monster and Build the Word which focus on oral blending and segmenting:

The software allows you to choose which scheme you want to follow, as well as your regional accent preference (north or south of England):

Once pupils are confident at using the games online, you can also produce pdf’s of specific patterns to reinforce areas that they are working on. This was useful to set as targeted homework.

Busy things does not replace the work we need to do to help strengthen phonological awareness skills but it is a really useful tool. Children can independently use the game on laptops during class reading time or other pockets of the school day.

Teachers can set up class profiles and monitor how their pupils are doing.

For more information, there are youtube videos on how to get started, as well as tutorials online. Alternatively, do contact us for more information. While not experts,  we are  happy to share what we have learnt!

Tower Hamlets Language, Literacy and Communication Team

September 2021






Communication aids – technology is only the start

When a child or young person has difficulty with speaking technology can step in and quickly provide a means of communication. There are simple, dedicated, devices, like Big Macs and GoTalks , which are designed solely for the purpose of providing a voice, or there are apps to install on iPads and PCs. The first of these take short, recorded messages that are replayed when a button is pushed. The latter are more sophisticated and can be developed to do much more than provide speech, including controlling aspects of the environment, such as lighting and heating, or to operate the device, opening and closing apps, running searches and sending messages.

So there can be many factors involved in determining just what provision to make. Whilst these will include other functions we might want it to perform, there is also the language level of the user, and their capability, not just with words.

For instance, does the learner understand cause and effect, that their action, whether pressing a button or resting their eyes on part of the screen (if they are using eye gaze hardware) has made something happen?

Perhaps more fundamentally than that, do they have a cause to communicate, a reason to push the button and broadcast a message in the first place? For those with more challenging and complex needs they may be in a situation of having the people who care for them speaking on their behalf, making choices and guiding their lives. This is most probably for practical reasons, rather than a desire to take control. However, this can lead to a situation where the learner has learnt that other people do this so they don’t have the imperative to do it for themselves – sometimes referred to as ‘learnt helplessness.’

It might be that it is the learner themselves who is driving the shift to AAC by showing frustration that they can’t communicate effectively, perhaps they are becoming stressed, or acting up, because they are unable to let you know what they want.

Do they have the means to operate a device, whether by touching the screen, typing on the keyboard, operating a switch or a button of some sort, or using eyegaze? There is always some way that can be found to get control, perhaps through sipping and blowing through a mouthpiece, or even through electrodes attached to the skin that pick up electrical signals from the nervous system when an action is thought about, not just when it is actually carried out. Once this operation is found, the user has to be able to understand it and regulate it. Sometimes it may prove not be durable or inconsistent. An eyegaze user, for instance, may get very tired quite quickly due to the degree of concentration involved, or a part of the body may have involuntary tics. So there need be supporters around who understand this and who can make adjustments.

Can they take turns? Do they understand the process of communication whereby it is an interaction, not simply a request or a response? Is their communication a dialogue?

Often AAC is a next step, so has the learner already used communication methods such as signing, or a communication book, providing a base on which to build? If they have this often means they have an understanding of symbols, and of categorisation, both of which can be integral to its use. The first because they may not be fluent with text, the second in order to find the words and phrases they want to use, whether that is ‘food,’ or associated with ‘home,’ or perhaps ‘colours.’

They will also need to be able to navigate the system, moving between screens, using swipes and taps, and understanding where a ‘back button’ or ‘home icon’ might take them.

Crucially there is also the need for a support network around the child or young person. Central to this should be a speech and language therapist, just as when a child is learning to use their voice, because that is what this technology is, and to develop their skills they need expert support.

Others in the network will include school staff, not only teachers, teaching assistants, and technicians, but also lunchtime supervisors to help encourage its use. As it is the learner’s voice the device will need to be with them at all times – home, school, and out and about. Whilst this might not happen immediately, that should be the plan, so everyone will need to know how to maintain it, and update it. There might be grids of words specific to home, or certain situations such as a weekend football, so these may need to be developed as the users’ needs change.

It is also going to be important to plan reviews of its use, as  the learners needs might change and the provision has to continue to meet them.

Determining the resources a learner needs can often be fairly straightforward, it is making sure they are used effectively, and that they remain up to date, that can be the challenge.






Multimedia Authoring, with Shakespeare…

Year 5  were studying Romeo and Juliet.  There was a small group of children in the class who were really struggling to get  their ideas, responses and their words onto paper alongside the rest of the class. The class teacher thought we might make podcasts with this group eg: interviews with characters, “What is the most tragic thing about this story?”  or video diary entries from the Montagues and Capulet families; but in the end we thought it would work better with multimedia authoring using either Book Creator or Glogster.We decided to use Book Creator.

Book Creator is an app on Windows and iPads which allows the user to include sound files, videos, images, drawings and text  as well as shapes and speech bubbles in their work and is excellent for using across the curriculum. It is  also great for science reports, research journals and comic adventures.

The children enacted and filmed the scenes, and then we interviewed the characters themselves, and interviewed onlookers who “witnessed” the fight between Benvolio and Mercutio. We gave our opinions about why this was almost inevitable, how this could have been avoided, and what the repercussions of the family feud might be.

We edited sound files (voice recordings of the interviews) using Audacity to create news reports of the events in Verona.

Our completed book included the “mobile ‘phone camera footage” of the deadly sword fight, the empassioned appeals for calm from innocent bystanders, interviews with people who knew both families and an official announcment from the Duke of Verona.

If you are doing something like this, also have a look at Glogster which is a cloud-based platform (app and website) for creating presentations and interactive learning. Glogster also allows users to combine text, images, video, and audio to create an interactive, Web-based poster called glogs on a virtual canvas.